Skip to main content

Colts’ Frank Reich Speaks on Carson Wentz, Coaching Hires Ahead of Combine

With a new defensive staff in place and questions surrounding the QB position, Reich gives an excited tone entering the offseason.

It didn’t take long for the questions to begin to swirl.

“Will Carson Wentz be back at quarterback in 2022?”

“Will there be any changes to the defense?”

“How can the weapons be improved on offense?”

Ever since the season ended abysmally on a sunny afternoon in Jacksonville, the Indianapolis Colts have been searching for answers. The team was in a state of shock and embarrassment after what transpired, going from a 98% chance to make the playoffs with two weeks left to watching the postseason from home.

“It still bothers me,” general manager Chris Ballard admitted Tuesday.

The Colts have vowed not to let that type of collapse happen again. From owner Jim Irsay’s passionate speeches on social media in front of his private jet to the tough conversations the team’s decision-makers are having behind closed doors, the Colts plan on going “all in” in 2022.

A central figure in all of this is head coach Frank Reich. Reich spoke for the first time since the end of the season on Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis and, as he always does, had an optimistic view of the challenge ahead.

“I’m looking forward to this process,” Reich said. “This is the part of the year that you really start thinking about how we’re going to get better. It’s that next step. Every player is important, so this is a big part of the whole deal. We’ll dig in deep and get going for this year.”

Of course, the main question on everyone’s mind is how the Colts’ quarterback situation will turn out. Both Ballard and Reich were non-committal on Wentz when the season ended, and both acknowledged that the evaluation process is ongoing.

“I thought this year compared to 2020, we kind of got back on track,” Reich admitted about Wentz. “Protected the ball well. Made some good plays. On the positive side we’ve emphasized the touchdown to interception ratio was where you want it to be. So, it was a good step. It was a good step from 2020. So, we’ll continue to evaluate the process – that’s ongoing.”

When it comes to Wentz’s numbers from 2020, Reich’s points are valid. The quarterback threw for more yards and touchdowns, had fewer interceptions and fumbles, and had a better passer rating than a season ago. But the way Wentz folded late in the season and failed to elevate the team when it was needed most simply cannot be ignored.

Jan 9, 2022; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz (2) throws in the second half against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

“If we finish the season the way we’re supposed to, we’re probably not having this discussion,” Reich admitted. “We have to take ownership of it. I do as the coach, every player. Head coach and quarterback are under the most scrutiny. So, we live with that and move forward.”

And moving forward is what the Colts are trying to do. Regardless of who is under center Week 1, Reich has been through this before. Since he was hired in 2018, Reich has the 11th most wins of any coach in football, all while having four different starting quarterbacks in four years.

“Whatever ends up happening, whether it’s five in five years or if Carson is back, however that decision ends up playing out, you play the hand that you’re dealt. You just try to play a winning hand, right? You make the most of everything you have and you know when you’re playing that hand you believe you’re going to win that hand. That’s just the way I feel. We’ve got a lot of good cards in hand.”

The cupboard certainly isn’t bare for the Colts. With a league-leading seven Pro Bowlers in 2021, there is talent all over this roster. To take the next step, the Colts must play their best ball when it matters most and take care of business.

While Wentz and the offense have taken quite a bit of heat this offseason, the defense is just as worthy of criticism. A unit that had Pro Bowlers at all three levels could not stop the lowly Jaguars in Week 18. It’ll now be up to Gus Bradley to help change that.

Bradley will be taking over as the Colts’ defensive coordinator after Matt Eberflus’s departure to be the head coach of the Chicago Bears. The Colts went with an outside hire, and while Reich had not worked with Bradley before, some of his closest confidants vouched for the long-time defensive coordinator.

“I never met Gus before but I knew a ton about him because of my relationship with Nick Sirianni and Philip Rivers who were with Gus at length,” Reich explained. “I used to kid those guys that I used to get jealous about how much they used to talk about Gus about what a great person and what a great coach he is. I’ve seen that in the couple of weeks we’ve been together.

He continued, “This is a guy who totally fits our culture. I think he’s going to bring a dynamic to our defense that’s going to help us elevate. I think we’ve played some really good defensive football over the last four years and I’m expecting that we’ll continue to get better.”

Aug 19, 2021; Thousand Oaks, CA, USA; Las Vegas Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley reacts during a joint practice against the Los Angeles Rams. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Reich and Bradley have spent the better part of the last two and half weeks filling out the rest of the defensive staff. The staff looks to be a mix of both experienced and fresh faces.

While linebackers coach Richard Smith and defensive backs coach Ron Milus have plenty of coaching experience, defensive line coach Nate Ollie will be getting his first shot at being a position coach in the NFL. Ollie may be the most important hire on the defensive staff as he tries to bolster a young pass rush group that was underwhelming in 2021, to say the least.

However, it was the former Colts players who are joining the coaching staff that Reich talked about the most. Mike Mitchell (assistant secondary coach) and Cato June (assistant linebackers coach) are both well known to Colts fans for the leadership they brought to the defense during their respective tenures.

“Mike Mitchell, who was here with us in 2018, really brings a presence of leadership, toughness – mental and physical toughness – savvy veteran guy who understands the game. The little game within the game. That’s what I was really looking for in that position was somebody who understands the game within the game, can connect with players at a deep level like that. Cato June – obviously I wasn’t here when he was here before, but I’m really excited about him. I got to know him a little bit. He did an internship with us. A very smart guy, our kind of guy.”

But the former player set to join the coaching staff generating the most buzz is Reggie Wayne. Reich confirmed that the Colts are in talks to bring Wayne on as the wide receivers coach. With the young wideout group the Colts have, Wayne has the opportunity to mold the room in his image. As one of the greatest receivers to play the game, the Colts would love for this to happen.

“I’ve been talking to Reggie about possibly getting on staff for four years,” Reich admitted. “I mean, Reggie is a guy I have the utmost respect for, I’m just a big believer in him as a person and as a competitor, as a winner. If we can get that all locked up … I think he’ll bring a lot, not only to the individual receivers there about how to play the position but also just a mentality. That championship mentality that we want to have to go forward.”

Reich’s tenure has been filled with changes. Whether it’s at the quarterback position or coaches on his staff, he has become used to the ever-changing landscape of the NFL. It’s hard to argue against the job he has done without stability in key areas.

While stability is ideal, Reich is ready to take on the challenge once again. The Colts’ head coach loves to use the analogy of “climbing the mountain” as he and his team strive to “reach the summit.” As he stands at the base of the mountain that is 2022, we’ll see how far Reich can climb.

Have thoughts on Frank Reich's comments at the NFL Combine? Drop a line in the comments below and let us know what you think!

Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMooreSI.

Follow Horseshoe Huddle on Twitter and Facebook.

Pre-Order Our Indy Draft Guide! Full Guide Drops on April 11th. Only $8.99 with the code "draft"